Hollywood’s finest turned out in all their customary glitz and glamour, gifting us a night filled with incredible fashion, cringe-worthy speeches and just the right dose of uncomfortable jokes. But it was also a night of sorrow, for we bade farewell to a faithful friend. As much as it pains us, we must announce the death of a beloved: the “I have as many Oscars as Leonardo DiCaprio” meme, which died from a massive attack of irrelevancy Sunday night.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. He did it. And in that room of his contemporaries, from last year’s Best Actress winner, Julianne Moore, to his onscreen lover and offscreen friend, Kate Winslet, the Dolby Theatre was filled to the brim with love and support for Leo as he took to the stage and accepted his first Oscar for Best Actor after four prior nominations. In typical fashion, his eloquent speech honored both his film The Revenant, with specific shout outs to director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and his co-star Tom Hardy, before driving the importance of conservation home.
“I just want to say this — making The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world,” said DiCaprio in his acceptance speech. “Climate change is real, and it’s happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”
At that point, we’re sure nothing could bring the 41-year-old actor down, not even losing an Oscar for producer in the Best Picture category, which The Revenant lost to the underdog Spotlight — underdog only in the sense that the survival epic garnered a whopping 12 nominations with Spotlight earning half that. The investigative journalism flick only won two of their six nominations, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture, the biggest prize of the night, capping off an incredible awards season run.
Also riding high now, any one who had anything to do with the making of Mad Max: Fury Road. The post-apocalyptic film earned 10 nominations and won six of them: costume design, production design, makeup and hairstyling, films editing, sound editing and sound mixing. Although many will still decry that it didn’t nab top prize, one many argue was the one Oscar it truly deserved, or Best Director for George Miller, who lost to Iñárritu, fans can still be pleased that it swept the majority of the technically categories, only losing out to Ex Machinaon for visual effects.
But the night wasn’t that generous to everyone, and no, we’re not just talking about all of the films and actors of color who were snubbed. No, host Chris Rock drove the point home in his numerous effective monologues.
We’re talking about the dark horse known as Mark Rylance, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Male Actor for his role in Bridge of Spies, in which the British actor portrays a Soviet spy. To say this win was a surprise would be an understatement, as Rylance beat out Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Sylvester Stallone and Mark Ruffalo in what was the most stacked category of the night. It was an upset of colossal proportions, but the stage-turned-cinema actor was perhaps the most gracious person on the stage, giving one of the first of many exceptional speeches that night, and maybe melting our hearts just a little.
“I’ve always just adored stories, hearing them, seeing them, being in them,” Rylance said in his acceptance speech. “So for me to have the chance to work with I think one of the greatest storytellers of our time, Steven Spielberg, it’s such an honor. And unlike some of the leaders we’re being presented with these days, he leads with such love … It’s a wonderful time to be an actor, and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Some of the more ‘awe’ moments involved Alicia Vikander’s emotional acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for The Danish Girl, and Brie Larson proved yet again that she’s the new, calmer Jennifer Lawrence, breezing through her nerves as she accepted the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Room. And we won’t be forgetting Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s speech when she won Best Short-subject Documentary for A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, which she explained has convinced the Pakistani prime minister to change the law on honor killing after he watched it, which “is the power of film.”
However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge one of the more injustices of the night, and there were surprisingly few, which involved Lady Gaga giving one of the most memorable Oscar performances — or any, ever — for the song she co-wrote with Diane Warren for the film about campus sexual assault, “Till It Happens to You,” and then losing out on Best Original Song to Sam Smith’s watery James Bond theme, “Writing’s On the Wall.” Between a song that felt too much like a wannabe Adele hit to Smith’s less then stellar performance, in which he was pitchy and seemed to shift his weight a lot while standing in one place, it felt a bit unfair that the female duo lost out. Even he had misgivings about his performance, and that’s just the beginning of Sam Smith’s Oscar drama, which includes his historically inaccurate acceptance speech.
Luckily, Gaga’s performance, introduced by Vice President Joe Biden, succeeded with its message to raise awareness of sexual assault, made even more raw and visceral in part because of Gaga’s personal connection to the song, having been assaulted herself as a teenager. Toward the end of the performance, with Gaga still pounding on her piano, the stage filled with young men and women, all survivors of sexual assault. It was one the most uncomfortable and risky moves we’ve ever seen on live TV, but one that absolutely needed to happen.
Hosts always get picked apart by their jokes, however controversial, insulting or safe, but hopefully we can look back on this Oscars year and consider the real issues that the show highlighted, and the enduring messages it gave voices to.
Follow Sara Snoddy on Twitter at @Sara_Snoddy.
To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email firstname.lastname@example.org.